VENTURA, Calif.-- Friday marks three years since the Thomas Fire blazed through Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. It burned over 200,000 acres and destroyed over 1,000 structures, which many are still trying to rebuild. Harbor View Villas apartment complex was destroyed by the wildfire, but since have rebuilt the complex and are ready to reopen.
The night of Dec. 4, 2017, is a time many will never forget. The Thomas Fire, which sparked in Santa Paula, quickly made its way to Ventura, ultimately burning over 200,000 acres and destroying thousands of structures, including the Harbor View Villa apartment complex.
It was three years ago that the apartment complex that was built in the 1960’s caught fire destroying 34 units.
“This whole area of the building at Harbor View was up in flames. There were 100-foot flames on the hillside across the street when this building caught fire,” said Jeannette Frescas who is the property manager of Harbor Villas. Frescas was also living there the night of the fire.
“ It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” said Frescas.
There was no time for advance notice for evacuations. Fire officials used blow horns to warn people to get out. Many residents not even having enough time to pack a bag.
“We live on that 4th floor, and when I came out to look,” said Len Taylor, who has live at the Harbor View Villa for nearly 11 years. “I was not expecting to see any fire near by. I thought by the time you get evacuated it’s maybe a few miles away, but to see the whole hillside on fire all ready past our apartment complex, and feeling the heat and seeing the wind and the ashes blowing, and all the neighbors running away.”
“It is always a little emotional when you look back,” said Frescas.
Fire crews were able to save a large portion of the complex, but the other half was completely destroyed. Reconstruction started immediately. What was once rubbled ash is now a whole new building that looked like it once did.
Harbor View Villas has bounced back from that tragic night that changed so many lives.
“It has been three years and we are very excited to have the new building be back up again,” said Frescas.
“Its great,” said Taylor. “I never imagined that they would be able to rebuild it in kind of the old 1965 style. I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of new neighbors.”